Tigers 8, Twins 7
With runners on first and second and an antsy crowd looking on, Joaquin Benoit prepared to face Justin Morneau with the game on the line.
Benoit struck out the Minnesota slugger, and moments later, his Detroit Tigers had edged the Twins again.
''Two men on base, Morneau coming up. I think that was the biggest out tonight,'' Benoit said. ''I just tried to find my way.''
Brennan Boesch broke an eighth-inning tie with a sacrifice fly, and the Tigers went on to beat the Twins 8-7 on Tuesday night. Morneau hit two home runs, but Benoit got the best of him in the ninth inning.
Regular closer Jose Valverde had the night off after saving Monday's 6-5 win over Minnesota and pitching in both games of a doubleheader on Sunday. Benoit allowed a one-out single by Denard Span and a walk to Alexi Casilla, but he struck out Morneau and got Michael Cuddyer to hit a ground ball to end it.
It was the second save of the season for Benoit, who signed a $16.5 million, three-year contract with Detroit in the offseason. He entered Tuesday's game with a 6.16 ERA, but he appears to be on the right track now. He hasn't allowed an earned run in his last six appearances.
''It was a situation of mechanics that I needed to fix, and I think I figured something out. Hopefully everything keeps going the way it is,'' he said. ''I was going forward too fast. I didn't have enough time to get my arm up to release the pitch.''
After Danny Worth led off the bottom of the eighth with a single, Austin Jackson tried to bunt him to second. Reliever Phil Dumatrait (0-1) tried to get the force play but threw late and wildly to second. Casper Wells then bunted the runners to second and third before Boesch hit a fly ball to right.
''Boesch had a great at-bat, a couple great at-bats in big situations,'' Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. ''Big bunt by Wells. Guys executed pretty good and Danny Worth gets a game to play tonight and ends up starting the winning rally with a base hit.''
The Tigers scored the winning run in the eighth on Monday as well.
On Tuesday, Detroit scored six runs in the fifth to take a 6-3 lead. Minnesota rallied as Jim Thome hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth, and the Twins scored three runs in the seventh, including a two-run homer by Morneau that gave them a brief 7-6 lead.
The Tigers tied it at 7 in the bottom half on a sacrifice fly by Jhonny Peralta.
Al Alburquerque (3-1) pitched a perfect eighth to win in relief for the second straight day.
Detroit starter Max Scherzer allowed seven runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out seven and walked one.
Brian Duensing went 4 2-3 innings for Minnesota, giving up six runs and nine hits. He struck out five and walked two.
Minnesota scored a run in the second and two in the third. Detroit left fielder Ryan Raburn was unable to cut off Danny Valencia's double in the gap in the second, and Valencia scored on a single by Delmon Young.
The following inning, Raburn allowed Matt Tolbert's line drive to go over his head for a double. Tolbert eventually scored on Casilla's sacrifice fly, and Morneau added a solo homer to make it 3-0.
The Tigers sent 10 batters to the plate in the fifth. Brandon Inge and Raburn started the rally with singles, and Jackson added an RBI single one out later. Casper Wells made it 3-2 with a ground-rule double, putting runners at second and third. Boesch then hit a ground ball to Tolbert, but the shortstop tried to catch Wells going to third and instead threw high and into the Detroit dugout for an error. Both runners scored to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead.
Victor Martinez and Peralta added RBI doubles later in the inning.
''Another night where we battled really hard and come up a little short,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''Duensing had one bad inning where they rolled a couple balls through, we made one bad play and suddenly it is a touchdown.''
Minnesota outfielder Jason Kubel sat out after leaving Monday's 6-5 loss to the Tigers with a sprained left foot.
NOTES: The Tigers were credited with three straight sacrifices in the eighth inning. ... Jackson was forced to stop at third during Detroit's big fifth inning when Wells' drive bounced over the wall in left-center for a ground-rule double. The Tigers won the previous day's game when Peralta was allowed to score from first on a double, after the umpires made a disputed fan interference call down the left-field line.